The Buildout: South Carolina awards millions to Comcast, AT&T and cooperatives
News Analysis Nicole Ferraro, Editor, Light Reading 2/3/2023
This week in broadband builds: Comcast, AT&T awarded grants in South Carolina, Charter wins in Florida, Fidium Fiber expands in Texas – and more.
The Buildout is a column from Light Reading tracking broadband network deployments. This week we're tracking fiber and wireless builds reaching roughly 240,000 locations across the US. Send us your news right here. Keep up with every installment of The Buildout here.
- The South Carolina Broadband Office (SCBBO) announced broadband awards of $132.8 million for 15 service providers this week. The funding, which comes from the American Rescue Plan (ARPA), will cover 56 projects across 33 counties. With an additional 48% match of non-ARPA funds ("other federal and/or private investment," according to a press release), the estimated total project cost for this round of broadband builds is $256,755,322. All SCBBO projects must be completed by December 31, 2024. Funding this round went to large providers including Comcast ($19.1 million), AT&T ($13.3 million) and Charter Communications ($4.1 million). Telephone and electric cooperatives also received grants, including Farmers Telephone Cooperative ($12 million), Palmetto Rural Telephone Cooperative ($12.6 million), Tri-County Electric Cooperative ($3.5 million) and others. The largest single grant ($27.4 million), for four projects, went to West Carolina Rural Telephone Cooperative. In a post on LinkedIn, Jim Stritzinger, director of South Carolina's broadband office, said: "It is an incredible honor to serve as SC Broadband Director and when I get to announce an investment which will impact 33/46 counties, connect at least 39,606 locations – resulting in changed lives for 153,140 residents and 14,360 public K-12 students – it gives me chills." In a press release following the announcement, AT&T said it was selected by the state to build fiber to nearly 2,500 customer locations in Greenville, and nearly 6,900 customer locations in Charleston.
- Greenlight Networks announced plans to expand its fiber network in the city of North Tonawanda, New York. In a press release, the company said it will invest nearly $12.5 million in network and infrastructure buildouts, bringing fiber connectivity to 12,800 households over the next two years. Service will be available for some as soon as August 2023, according to Greenlight, which currently provides broadband to more than 125,000 homes in 21 municipalities in Rochester, Buffalo, Binghamton and Albany. This announcement follows the company's recent news that it will invest $9 million to expand to the Hudson Valley.
- Florida awarded over $144 million through its Broadband Opportunity Grant Program this week, with the lion's share going to cable companies. The funding, which comes from the American Rescue Plan, will cover 58 projects in 41 counties, reaching nearly 160,000 unserved locations, including homes and businesses, schools and community locations, said the state in a press release. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appeared with representatives from Charter on Thursday, which is receiving $2.3 million to provide broadband to 791 unserved locations in Santa Rosa County, according to local reports. All told, according to the state, Charter received $27.9 million for buildouts in multiple counties. That puts Charter in second place after Comcast, which was awarded multiple grants worth roughly $45.2 million. Also in the mix was Cox, which received grants totaling $16.2 million. [Ed. note: This story was updated on February 6, 2023, with information about providers awarded.]
- Shentel's Glo Fiber announced a partnership with the Homeowner's Association of Ford's Colony, in Williamsburg, Virginia, to deploy fiber broadband to its residents. According to a press release, Ford's Colony is "situated on 3,200 acres with more than 2,700 homes." Construction will begin in Q2 2023 and is set to be completed in early 2024.
- As part of the company's continued buildouts in the rural US, Charter/Spectrum announced that its services are now live for more than 220 homes and businesses in Caswell County, North Carolina. This is the third rural county in North Carolina where Spectrum services have gone live in recent weeks. Spectrum is investing $5 billion to build fiber in rural America, including $1.2 billion received from the FCC's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction.
- Fidium Fiber, the consumer broadband arm of Consolidated Communications, announced this week that it is expanding its full fiber network to an additional 8,700 Texas homes. Construction is expected to continue through June and is part of Fidium's effort – ongoing since 2021 – to bring its services to over 100,000 Texas locations.
- Roanoke Connect, the ISP arm of Roanoke Electric Cooperative, has begun a fiber network build in Gates County, North Carolina. "The new and expanded initiative of Roanoke Connect, a broadband service provider, to provide FTTP in Gates County is essential to the future of the county," said Dr. Althea Riddick, chair of the Gates County Board of Commissioners, in an announcement. Roanoke Connect originally announced plans in late 2022 to build its FTTH network across four new counties, including Bertie, the Town of Halifax, Northampton and Gates, serving roughly 7,000 locations. Roanoke Electric Cooperative has delivered electricity to 2,400 members in the county for over 80 years.
- TDS Telecommunications will expand its fiber network to nearly 8,000 homes and businesses in Helena Valley, Montana. The network will be constructed in partnership with CEC Facilities Group and is privately funded, according to a press release. The news follows TDS' recent announcement that it will start construction this year to bring its 8Gbit/s network to more than 150,000 homes and businesses across Montana.
- Metronet announced additional network deployments and service launches this week, including starting construction on a "fully funded multimillion-dollar" fiber network in Daytona, Florida. According to a press release, construction will "expand rapidly" with the first customers expected to be connected this summer. The company also announced that its fiber network is available for customers in Hope Mills, North Carolina, as it continues its buildout in that region.
- IQ Fiber announced that it will begin network construction on Anastasia Island in St. Johns County, and Fernandina Beach in Nassau County, Florida, "in the coming weeks." In a press release, the company cited the network cost at $36 million. The news follows last week's announcement that IQ Fiber launched its $18 million FTTH network in Orange Park, Florida, for which it started construction in September 2022.
— Nicole Ferraro, editor, Light Reading, and host of "The Divide" podcast.
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